After 13 years, Fallout 3 has finally removed Microsoft’s (and broken) game service for Windows Live from the Steam release. Hooray! FO3 is still tuned because Bethesda hasn’t updated the game to run happily on modern Windows, but I’d take any opportunity to dance on GFWL’s grave. However, avoid updating if you play FO3 with a lot of mods.
The Steam announcement states that it is clear and simple that Fallout 3 GotY “no longer requires games for Windows Live” and “no longer installs games for Windows Live dependencies”. Yes, they seem to have stripped GFWL from the regular version as well, obvs. Bethesda started selling Fallout 3 without GFWL on GOG last year, so it’s good to see Steam catching up.
GFWL has been dead for a while but the game still requires it and will take some time trying to login on startup. Unofficial tools allowed players to get around this before, but it’s over now. If you already have FO3 installed on Steam, Bethesda suggests uninstalling and reinstalling to get it working properly. You may need to dig and save files from your old GFWL folder as well.
One big problem: You may want to avoid the update if you play a modified FO3. The update broke Fallout Script Extender (FOSE), a popular tool that more advanced mods require. The nature of the script extender makes it natural that it will no longer work when the game is updated – this is not a malicious action by Bethesda. The FOSE website notes, “I don’t have a time frame for updating FOSE to this new version.” If you rely on mods created with FOSE, then avoid them for now. If you have already updated, try this solution to undo it.
Removing GFWL from the non-GoY version might also be problematic, considering the expansions were originally sold through GFWL. I see someone on the Steam forums saying they can no longer access the DLC they purchased. Hmmm.
And yes, Fallout 3 is still frustrating in recent versions of Windows. I will point you to the always helpful PCGamingWiki for fixes and solutions to many problems. It’s a shame that Bethesda didn’t fix that while researching the game’s guts. It’s strange that they release new versions of Skyrim endlessly but they left this game as is.
I reached out to Bethesda with questions about accessing the GFWL DLC, and whether they plan to fix long-standing problems with Windows. I’ll let you know if I hear anything good.
For younger readers, the lucky ones, I’ll explain that Games For Windows Live were an artifact of the times when Microsoft expressed interest in PC games as an empty promise at best, and at worst a threat. GFWL was a Microsoft service game that you could use to add friends lists, messaging, achievements, DLC and DRM purchases, etc., and link them to your Xbox accounts. While Valve’s Steamworks can do all that now (and other stores have their own systems), while GFWL offered features Steam couldn’t. So it was unfortunate that GFWL was a buggy game and it felt like Microsoft was trying to promote Xbox consoles more than helping PC games. It didn’t help that DLC was not very popular at first, so the DLC coming to PC was hardly useful. It was wanted by a few games, but it made its way into many games – even years after Steamworks had grown into a more welcome alternative. And while some games eventually removed GFWL, many still include this long-dead technology. Fortunately, Fallout 3 is no longer among them.
Fallout 3 is now discounted on Steam, with the base game down to £2 and the GotY edition down to £6. This GotY discount is also available on GOG.